Monday, May 16, 2016

The costs of starting a vegetable garden on the balcony

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
How much will it cost you to grow veggies on the balcony? We've been documenting every expense since we started growing our own food, to keep a tab of how much money we use on our favorite hobby. Because most importantly, when you see how much money you use, you'll also become conscious of limiting your expenses.

If you're considering starting a vegetable garden, knowing about the costs will prepare you and you'll make better decisions.

Vegetable gardening is fun, but this doesn't mean that you should go bankrupt :-)
The costs of starting a vegetable garden
The costs of starting a vegetable garden

The start-up costs can be expensive depending on what and how much vegetables you want to grow. As an example; vegetables like carrots, potatoes and broad beans require large depths to develop their root systems. The bigger the containers are, the more soil you'll need. More soil = extra expenses.

If you're starting the growing season earlier, you're going to need extra light. Living in a colder climate the seedlings and plants should be covered with garden fabric during chillier periods.

Expensive or not, the money you and I spend today is an investment. Later this year, you will hopefully save money on groceries since you'll be eating off the garden :-) For the next season, you don't need to purchase any new pots, containers, seeds or garden equipment.

Our gardening expenses from February 11 to April 1, 2016:

Seeds, soil and fertilizer:
Seeds - 35 different vegetables, herbs, berries and flowers
Seedling tray
Soil potting mix  - 2 bags
Organic vegetable soil mix 50 liter - 3 bags
Sand - used for carrots
Organic liquid fertilizer (small)
Leca pebbles - 2 - used for drainage

Pots and containers:
Black plant pot - used for basil
Large, black containers - 2 - used for broad beans, carrots and shallots
Zinc container - 3 - used for five different lettuce types, kale and hyssop
Hanging rail flower box

Plant support and protection:
Garden fabric white - used for plant protection
Garden fabric black - used for drainage
Metal plant support - 4
Medium tall bamboo canes - 6 - used for plant support
Tall bamboo canes from IKEA

Hand trowel
Hand cultivator
Zinc labels (second-hand)
White marker pen
Garden gloves
Gardening books - 2

Potting bench
Lamps from IKEA - 2
LED grow light bulbs - 2
Table fan
Knee mat
Digital thermometer
Yearly fee to the Norwegian Gardening Association

In total, we've used approx. NOK 7600 ($ 930) without the shipping costs!

The expenses would have been higher if we hadn't inherited lots of stuff from my boyfriend's grandmother. We got plant pots in various sizes, flower soil, herb soil, liquid flower fertilizer, outdoor shelf, tables and gardening books :-) My boyfriend cleaned and scrubbed the plant pots, and after 3 hours they were ready to be used again.

Buy second-hand if you can

Our second-hand pots and containers for vegetable gardening
Our second-hand pots and containers for vegetable gardening

To limit the start-up costs, try to find used stuff. Some of the things listed above can be bought as second-hand like gardening equipment, shelves, pots and containers. Start the treasure hunt early at thrift stores (online too) and flea markets.

You don't need lots of equipment

Use what you have! We found old plastic containers in the basement and used them for growing chufa nuts and sugar peas. Old wooden chairs are now used to lift up the pots for the plants to acquire more natural daylight. A spare meat thermometer has been used to measure the soil temperature. Old plastic bottles are used as mini greenhouses.

It is easy to get carried away by all the new, exciting stuff at gardening shops. But frankly, some of it is unnecessary! One thing I regret buying is the seedling tray. For seed starting, it is not necessary to buy seedling trays when you can make your own seed starters from old newspapers, milk cartons, egg cartons, old yogurt boxes. plastic grape box (anything, really).
Sugar peas grown in a container on our balcony
Sugar peas grown in a container on our balcony

Hand seed sower is another thing I regret purchasing. I bought it last year for the allotment garden, but have only used it once. I enjoy using my bare hands for sowing seeds ;-)

Gardening shops also sell stuff like repotting sticks. Why not use old chopsticks or maybe a fork to separate the seedlings?

Next year, we'll be able to reuse the stuff we've bought. Healthy soil can be reused, but amendments need to be added when recycled. And did you know that most seeds can last for at least three years, if stored correctly?

Continue to read:
Gardening glossary for urban vegetable gardeners A-Z.

Spring update on our balcony vegetable garden.

Have your say about what you just read :)

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